Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

David Golumbia

Second Advisor

Tom De Haven

Third Advisor

Eric Garberson

Fourth Advisor

Shermaine Jones


Graphic Intimacies: Identity, Humor, and Trauma in Autobiographical Comics by Women of Color examines works of comics art about the lived experience of the comics’ creator. These graphic narratives address racialized difference and the construction of identity while also using humor to negotiate their narrations of traumatic events. I argue that these creators employ the structure of comics to replicate the fragmentary nature of memory. Comics allow for the representation of trauma as being intimately linked to corporeality. The comics medium allows creators to make visible and present fractured versions of the self, a product of traumatic fragmentation. Drawing traumatic memories becomes a symbolic enactment of transformation. Comics become a way of coping with the fragmentary nature of traumatic memory, permitting a consolidation of memory even when a totality is impossible.

Graphic Intimacies examines representative texts by four autobiographical cartoonists: Lynda Barry, Belle Yang, MariNaomi, and Whit Taylor. Each of these cartoonists engages in critiques of social issues through the negotiation of a multilayered identity. For instance, Barry’s One Hundred Demons (2002) explores her identity as a white-passing Filipino American growing up in a low-income neighborhood. In Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale (2011), Yang a Taiwanese born Chinese American artist, tells the story of her father’s family in order to heal from the trauma of intimate partner abuse. Biracial Japanese American artist MariNaomi explores her disconnection from her Japanese heritage while chronicling her experiences working in Japanese-style hostess bars in Turning Japanese (2016).


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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission


Available for download on Tuesday, May 07, 2024